Can You Have A Pet Squirrel In Missouri? [Regulations & More]

can you have a pet squirrel in Missouri

The Show-Me State comprises about 15 million acres; one-third of the state is covered by forest land. As a result, Missouri is home to hundreds of different wildlife, including tree and ground squirrels. This has led some residents to wonder if it is legal to have a pet squirrel.

Can You Have A Pet Squirrel In Missouri?

Missouri has some strict laws regarding the types of pets you can own. Unfortunately, it is not legal to trap or capture wild animals, including squirrels, raccoons, skunks, etc., to keep them as a pet.

However, according to, the state allows residents to keep wildlife when purchased from a reputable breeder.

The Show-Me State considers wildlife rescued from the wild a health hazard. Animals such as squirrels can carry contagious diseases that can be transmitted to humans. 

Therefore, hobby wildlife permits are only issued for animals purchased from state-approved breeders.

Depending on when you read this, the laws may change. So you’ll want to contact the Missouri Department of Conservation to ensure the regulations have not changed. 

That said, here’s what we found regarding owning a squirrel as a pet in Missouri.

Is it Illegal to Have A Pet Squirrel And Exotic Animals in Missouri?

The Laws are not as clear in Missouri as in other states, and the laws can be confusing. 

Squirrels are game animals, meaning the state allows residents to hunt, trap and kill them during regular hunting season. Residents can keep squirrels and other small mammals if purchased from an reputable breeder.

Exotic animals are not allowed as pets in Missouri. Laws banning the ownership of dangerous exotic animals, including bobcats, wolfs, bears, cheetahs, jaguars, mountain lions, nonhuman primates, poisonous reptiles, etc.

Possessing any species of dangerous reptile over eight feet long is illegal unless maintained by an educational institution, zoo, animal refuge, etc.

According to the FWP, it is illegal to possess any wildlife species without the appropriate wildlife pet permits.

Anyone who purposely violates any law regarding fish and game is subject to a Class C misdemeanor charge.

If found guilty, you are subject to fines not exceeding $700 and imprisonment for no more than 15 days.

Animals The Wildlife Hobby Permit Covers

As mentioned above, the state will issue a wildlife hobby permit to residents that purchase from state accredited breeders. The animals that are allowed as pets under the permit are as follows:

  • Raccoon – Procyon lotor
  • Muskrat – Ondatra zibethicus
  • Rabbit, Swamp – Rylvilagus aquaticus
  • Eastern Gray Squirrel – Sciurus carolinensis
  • Fox Squirrel – Sciurus niger
  • Otter, River – Lontra canadensis
  • Mink – Neovison vison

Types of Wildlife Breeders In Missouri

There are three classifications of wildlife breeders in the state of Missouri. They are as follows:

Class I Wildlife BreedersClass II Wildlife BreedersClass III Wildlife Breeders
Game BirdsMountain Lion if granted a permit
prior to August 30, 2021
Wolf if granted a permit
prior to August 30, 2021
Mammals (squirrels)CopperheadWhite-tailed deer
AmphibiansElk and their hybrids
Specific Reptiles
Specific Snakes

The list of animals change periodically, so before acquiring a pet squirrel or any other type of wildlife, make sure you contact the state of Missouri to find out if it is still legal to own it.

How to Become A Wildlife Rehabilitator In Missouri?

Missouri offers a wildlife rehabilitator permit for residents that meet the requirements listed on the Missouri Department of Conservation website

Individuals who graduate from a school of veterinary medicine or other wildlife rehabilitation training course may apply for a wildlife rehabilitation license.

The permit allows individuals to possess, take, transport, and hold in captivity for rehabilitation of injured or sick Missouri wildlife. However, wildlife rehabilitators cannot keep the animals in possession for more than 120 days.

What Types of Squirrels Exist in Missouri?

Missouri is home to several types of squirrels, but the Gray squirrel and eastern Fox squirrel are the most commonly seen throughout the state.

Like most states, other tree squirrels and grounds have found their way to the state. 

Today, it’s not uncommon to see a variety of species of squirrels throughout different regions.

Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus Carolinensis)

The Eastern Gray squirrel is a native species of the state. The gray squirrel resides in urban and rural areas throughout the state but is found in abundance in the Mississippi Lowland Region and Ozark areas.

It is home to deciduous trees, such as oaks, maples, and beeches. These trees are popular among wildlife, predominantly gray and flying squirrels. 

These opportunistic feeders will eat just about anything they can find. Including seeds, fruits, nuts, insects, and even bird eggs!

The Eastern Gray squirrel will also strip the bark from trees in search of food during the winter months.

The coat of an Eastern Gray squirrel is salt and pepper colored. With a gray fur coat and a large bushy tail. The color camouflages it within the woods, hiding it from predators.

Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

The Red Squirrel (Sciurus) is present in the Midwest, bordering states such as; Iowa, Wisconsin, Kentucky, South Dakota, etc., but its native range does not include Missouri.

This squirrel has reddish-brown fur on its upper body, while the belly and undertail are white. In addition, there is often a grayish or whitish band along the sides. The Red squirrel’s tail is also red with white edges.

The Red squirrel feeds primarily on tree seeds, buds, fruits, nuts, and fungi. However, when their food is in short supply, they can be seen feeding on bird feeders, gardens, and the generosity of humans.

The Red squirrel is the most vocal of all the squirrel species and will often chatter at perceived threats. They are most active in the early morning and late afternoon.

Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys Volans)

Missouri is home to the flying squirrel (Glaucomys Sabrinus). These species reside in mostly oak-hickory forests such as the Ozarks, which cover nearly 47,000 square miles.

The flying squirrel is a small, nocturnal creature proficient at gliding, thanks to a flap of skin called a patagium that runs from the wrist to the ankle on each side. 

When extended, it acts as a wing, allowing them to glide long distances (up to 150 feet) from one tree to another.

The flying squirrel is primarily gray with a white underside. They have large eyes that help them see at night and furry tails that they use for balance while gliding.

The diet of both flying squirrels includes insects, nuts, berries, acorns, sap, and mushrooms.

Southern Flying Squirrels produce two litters each year with 2-4 young each. The gestation period is 40 days, and the mother weans her babies at 6 – 8 weeks.

Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus Niger)

These species live in oak-hickory forests found in the northern and western plains of the state. They are occasionally found in urban environments such as; roofs, birdhouses, and attics, but not as often as the more common gray squirrel.

This squirrel is bigger than most species at a weight of 1 – 3 pounds and 19 – 29 inches long. The fur on its back ranges in color between black and gray, while its underside has an orange tone that stretches to its ears, feet, cheeks, and tail edges. In addition, its long, bushy tail varies in color. 

The Eastern Fox squirrel is the most common type of tree squirrel found in Missouri. This species can be seen foraging in bird feeders and people’s backyards.

The Eastern Fox squirrel is most active in the early morning and late afternoon.

Their diet consists of acorns, beechnuts, fruits, fungi, corn, and insects. During the winter, they have been known to eat tree bark when food is scarce.

The Eastern Fox squirrel is a loner except during mating season or when raising young. Mating season begins.

They breed twice a year and produce 1 -2 litters of young each year. After 45 days of gestation, the female fox squirrel will produce 1 – 7 blind, hairless young and wean them at eight weeks.

Does Missouri Have Ground Squirrels?

Missouri is a southern/midwestern state in the United States and is bordered by eight states. It is nicknamed “The Show Me State” and has a population of over six million people. The state capital is Jefferson City.

Missouri’s diverse landscape includes forests, prairies, rivers, and lakes. There are also caves and hot springs in the Ozarks region of the state.

Missouri has a variety of wildlife, including deer, elk, bison, bears, and coyotes. There are also ground squirrels in Missouri. The most common species is the thirteen-lined ground squirrel.

Other types of ground squirrels in Missouri include:

  • The eastern chipmunk.
  • Least chipmunk.
  • Golden-mantled ground squirrel.
  • The Franklin’s ground squirrel.

The thirteen-lined ground squirrel is the most common variety found in Missouri. These ground squirrels have brown fur with white stripes running down their backs. They are also known to eat insects, plants, and small animals.

The eastern chipmunk is another type of ground squirrel found in Missouri. These chipmunks are brown with white stripes running down their sides. They are known to store food in their cheek pouches and can climb trees.

The least chipmunk is the smallest type of ground squirrel found in Missouri. They are yellowish gray with tawny dark stripes.

Can I Relocate to Missouri With A Pet Squirrel?

According to the laws, if you’ve purchased the squirrel from a reputable breeder, you likely won’t have an issue keeping it as a pet. The state

However, there have been many instances where the state Game Commission didn’t allow residents moving to different states to keep a pet squirrel. 

Finally, after some lengthy legal battles, the squirrel was allowed to remain a pet.

One such case that comes to mind is the case of Nutkin, the squirrel that was acquired in South Carolina (where it’s allowed to own squirrels) and relocated to Pennsylvania.

Can You Buy A Pet Squirrel In Missouri?

Unlike other states, the Show-Me State offers the 3 CSR 10-9.420 (wildlife hobby permit) to individuals who purchased a game animal from a Missouri wildlife breeder with a valid permit. 

There is a $10 fee for the permit, and it’s valid for one year.

The Wildlife hobby permit allows residents to possess game mammals, except that from the Class II wildlife category. You cannot sell, trade, or barter the game animals specified on the permit.

Residents must provide humane and sanitary cages, pens, or other enclosures, as discussed in Mo. Code Regs. 3 CSR 10-9.220.

Several websites, such as this one, sell exotic animals throughout the United States.

That said, be prepared to pay for a domesticated squirrel. Prices range from $300 – $800 or more. In addition, if caught using one, you could face legal issues.

Before purchasing a squirrel online from a breeder, you’ll need to know if they meet the state requirements to ensure you’re buying from a legal breeder.

Final Word

Residents can only keep a pet squirrel if purchased through a reputable online breeder. These squirrels can cost several hundred dollars. Additionally, it is illegal to take squirrels or other wildlife from the wild and keep it as a pet.

Missouri has strict laws against exotic and wildlife animals as pets. 

If caught with a captive squirrel rescued from the wild, it will likely be taken away. Unfortunately, the state does not offer permits for animals rescued from the wild.

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